In 1973, NASA launch Apollo 18, a secret, military mission to the moon. Footage recovered in 2011 reveals the fate of its three astronauts. On the moon, astronauts Walker and Anderson find a Soviet spaceship, the corpse of a cosmonaut, and a dangerous form of extra-terrestrial life.
Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego, who made the Spanish suspense item King of the Hill, this is a more high-tech ‘found footage’ effort than the usual wander-in-the-woods Blairwitchiness.
It feeds on conspiracy theories about the space race (it’s almost the anti-Capricorn One) and manages a convincing simulation of the look and feel of the hours of moon mission coverage which kept TV viewers rapt during the heyday of the Apollo program. It uses enough real NASA stock to establish the familiar American spacecraft and the cratered lunar landscape, but there’s a lovely, convincing bolted-together brutalist design for the imaginary Soviet moon-ship.
The actual plot is very basic science fiction, with (after a lot of delaying action and mystification) monsters that could have devolved from the spitting Martian rock snakes in Thunderbirds Are Go or the chameloning insects of Red Planet - though it builds up to a creepy punchline about an invasion which may have already happened. The performances of Warren Christie and Lloyd Owen as the main astronauts are understated, even when the crises escalate and it becomes obvious there’s little likelihood of anyone making it off the moon. The cramped, claustrophobic interiors and the desolate, hostile environment make for an atmosphere of unease, but it has the frequent found footage horror problem of jagged, unengaging character interplay which limits involvement with what’s going on when the horror gets out of hand. It’s sometimes scary, but not often affecting.
Blair Witch with moon rock. Paranormal Activity in space. Contrived, but if you can take one more variant on the formula, its got its moments.